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Arsen Avakov: Ukrainian investigation has received evidence of innocence of Ukrainian prisoner in Italy Vitaliy Markiv

As part of a criminal investigation into the deaths of Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli and Russian citizen Andriy Mironov, Ukraine’s National Police conducted a series of investigative actions at the scene, in Slovyansk and on Karachun Mountain, and obtained evidence of Vitaly Markiv’s innocence. This was stated by the Minister of Interior of Ukraine Arsen Avakov during the presentation of the interim results of the investigation.

"We have decided to do this today also because we want to signalize our full readiness to cooperate with the Italian judiciary and show the importance of the materials of the investigation to establish the truth in this case. Our investigation has found a number of witnesses important to establish the picture of the death of journalists, whose testimony clearly shows the innocence of Vitaliy. In addition, we conducted a number of examinations and investigative experiments at the scene, in Slovyansk and on KarachunMount, which also gave convincing results", Arsen Avakov said.

In particular, more than 70 people were interrogated, 20 of them - direct witnesses, 7 investigative experiments were conducted as well as 5 additional inspections of the place of death, 11 forensic examinations were appointed and held. In addition, a military examination was conducted, which established the absence of violations by the Armed Forces and the NGU during combat action to counter Russian aggression and its terrorist activities. Experts also found that there was no causal link between Markiv's actions and the deaths of Mironov and Rocchelli.

The head of the Ministry of Interior stressed that representatives of Italian law enforcement agencies had never visited Ukraine and were not at the scene of the death of an Italian citizen.

"Thus, the investigation was not conducted in full and VitaliyMarkiv was deprived of the unconditional right to an objective investigation and the right for defense. Therefore, I urge the esteemed Italian court to pay a due attention to the evidence collected by the Ukrainian investigation and take it into account when making a fair decision, "Arsen Avakov stressed.

The Minister of Interioralso noted that on Friday he spoke with Vitaliy Markiv via video: "Vitaliy is a fighter, warrior, strong in spirit and a true patriot of Ukraine, who is in no way involved in the deaths of Andrea Rocchelli and Andriy Mironov."

Deputy Chief of the National Police - Chief of the Main Investigation Department Maksym Tsutskiridze said that the NGU soldiers had only small arms, and the distance between the position of Markiv and the place of death of the journalist is 1.7 km.

The investigation established that from the position of soldier Markiv the journalist’s place of death was not visible at all: "From the soldier Markiv’s position the place of death of Rocchelli and Mironov was out of sight, primarily due to long distance, the presence of train cars at the railway crossing and a dense cover of trees".

"The investigation does not exclude the version of the deliberate luring of Italian journalist Rocchelli, Russian Mironov and French journalist V. Rogulon, who was wounded, to crossfire by the militants of illegal armed formation (IAF) with the subsequent provocation of Ukrainian servicemen.

"During the interrogation of the established witness, a local resident, it became clear that the shooting started from the territory of the “Zeus Ceramics” plant, where the IAF militants were stationed at the time," Maxim Tsutskiridze said.

He also noted that witness Glushkov, who drove the wounded Rogulon from the “Zeus Ceramics” plant to Slovyansk, was interrogated separately.

«The witness told that at the time when he and Rogulon left factory, the car they were in was shot from submachine guns « the witness's car examination revealed damages from the submachine gun shots (caliber 5,45 mm), and also established that the witness's car was shot from a short distance with small arms, and it was the militants who occupied the territory of the plant, "MaksymTsutskiridze stressed.

Separately, the Deputy Chief of the National Police - Chief of the Main Investigation Department noted that the Italian side did not provide Ukrainian investigators with an answer to the question about the interrogation of Stella Khorosheva, who in 2014 was a spokeswoman for the so-called "people's mayor" of Slavyansk V. Ponomarev and currently lives in Italy.

"In the clothes of Mironov's corpse they found a note about taking a photo with Strelkov (pseudonym of a Russian citizen Girkin, a retired officer of the Armed Forces and the FSB of Russia), who led the IAF during the capture of Slovyansk, signed by Khorosheva," Maxim Tsutskiridze added.

Maxim Tsutskiridze reminded that Ukrainian investigators had long offered to Italian colleagues close cooperation in the defining the circumstances of the death of their citizen Andrea Rocchelli, but as of today, no response to the invitation has been received.

It is worth reminding that on June 30, 2017 in Italy VitaliyMarkiv, senior sergeant,squad commander of Kulchytsky battalion (unit 3066, NGU) was detainedupon suspicion of involvement in the death of the photojournalist of the Italian citizen Andrea Rocchelli in Slovyansk in May 2014.

The trial over Vitaliy has been going on for three years. In Italy, the appeal process on the case of National Guard VitaliyMarkiv will begin on September, 29. The next meeting is scheduled for October, 1. The appeal against the verdict was expected last spring, but due to the pandemic crisis it was postponed until the fall. The second-instance court hearing will take place in the Milan Jury Court of Appeal. The defense advocated an open session with the defendant in the courtroom.